Page:The Partisan (revised).djvu/97

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heard'st a syllable, all the time as good as saying: 'Now they come—nigher, nigher, nigher!'—and when he thought it time to move, he tumbled the dry branch into your open month, and made off with his last signals."

"Pshaw! what nonsense you talk!"

"Nonsense! Saint Jupiter, but it's true as turpentine! There's no truth, if that be not. Why, man, I go farther: I do believe, in my conscience, that they understand arithmetic and navigation. Don't you think he told his fellows how many we were, and what route over the water we were going to take? You see they have taken a different direction altogether."

"You think I swallow your fool's stories?" said Clough.

"Quite as easy to swallow, and better food than the branch the squirrel threw thee: but if thou believe not, I care not.—Rot thee, for an infidel, having as little belief as brains! Thou art worse than Turk or Hebrew, and should have no water from me wert thou famishing."

"Thou canst scarce deny it here," was the reply, as the squad, one after the other, struggled through a quagmire that spread across the path.

"Nor would I here; I am charitable: take thy fill of what is before thee.—But hold up, men; we are on the broad track. This tussock runs for a hundred yards, widening to a fork; and I've a mind that you shall go through the worst part of it, Sergeant Clough, that you may get more wisdom in swamp-sucking. Close up, men—close up!"

They passed over the broad path in a few moments, until they reached a point from which ran out another route, clearly indicated upon the sky by an opening through the trees, which let in, for the first time after their entrance, the unobstructed sunlight.

"To the right now, men—to the right! It's the worst track, but carries us soonest to the heart of the swamp, and we can pass it now without swimming: the waters are going down, and it will not be so bad, after all."

"Is it worse, Travis, than what we have passed?" inquired Clough, rather anxiously.

"Worse!" exclaimed Travis, turning shortly upon the speaker,